After years of writing for pleasure, Rachel Rivers Porter decided to join our Constructing a Novel course in March 2015. Fourteen weeks later, she was well on the way to completing her novel ‘Kiss of the Tsunami’, which was later long-listed for the The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. She continues to write, and we were delighted to be able to steal a few minutes of her time to hear her thoughts on writing and her time with The Writers’ Academy.
When did you decide to start writing?
When I went on family holidays as a teenager, I’d take a little exercise book to write stories in. As it turned out, my family would want the next instalment every night, so I’d jot down ideas throughout the day, often tucked into a sand dune while they were playing golf on windswept seaside courses! I remember we used to visit places, usually in the middle of nowhere – for example, a fishing village in Scotland – with the most amazing place names, then I would muddle these names up to make new characters. I then went on to study and eventually teach English, and loved writing plays for my students to perform; I also wrote stories for my own children who are now teenagers.
Where do your ideas come from?
Interesting things I hear about mixed with my own imagination. I listen to people: sometimes somebody will say something and I think ‘Wow, I’d like to use that’. I remember one time I was sat behind four ladies – I think in their 60’s – on the bus. They were going on a day trip to the place they had grown up in; revisiting their past, almost. I thought this would be a fantastic story, and was already wondering what each of their stories would be.
What inspired you to take part in The Writers’ Academy course?
I had been working on my novel for around three months: I knew I had something there but needed help to get it to the next level. I knew what I really wanted to do was write, and saw the course as an investment in my future.
Tell us your thoughts on writing and the course?
I loved it! It felt great to be in the forum with other writers, who understood the way I felt. I would open up the computer each morning and look forward to logging on: I wanted the other writers to comment on my writing, and appreciated their constructive advice. It was like having a circle of friends you hadn’t had before, and I’m glad that we we still keep up with one another.
My Tutor, Barbara, was also fantastic. She gave practical and helpful advice and was very patient. What I liked about the course was that I could get help with my own novel, along with working on exercises and advice on writing in general. I found this invaluable.
It was a worthwhile experience, and it was definitely worth investing in my writing. I knew I wanted to learn from experts and I wasn’t disappointed.
What have you done since the course ended?
Spurred on to finish my novel, I left my job when the course ended. I knew I wanted to write full-time, and I wanted to give it a real shot. I submitted my novel to The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition and was thrilled to be long-listed. I have since redrafted and submitted it to some agents, and I am currently revising a previous novel for 10-12 year olds, and also writing a first draft of a second Young Adult novel.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Go for it! The encouragement I received from the forum and my tutor, gave me the confidence to give up my job and follow my dream of trying to become a successful author. I know I am fortunate to have more time to focus on my characters and plot. I am still the same person as the teenager who sat in a sand dune with a little notebook, but since completing The Writers’ Academy creative writing course, I feel I have the confidence and the tools to create voices with more resonance.
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Want to hear more from thoughts on writing from another Writers’ Academy alumnus? Check out our interview with author Kirsty Manning in our post Insights into The Writers’ Academy Course. What are your thoughts on writing, creativity and writer’s block? Let us know in the comments below!
Interested in furthering your creative writing skills online? Why not find out more about the Creative Writing for Beginners and Constructing a Novel courses from Penguin Random House, delivered to you 100% online by The Writers’ Academy?
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